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Nine out of Ten People Confused by Broadband Limits

Posted: 23rd Oct, 2008 By: MarkJ
The latest study from uSwitch has revealed that 86% of UK broadband users still don’t understand the usage limits on their service and nearly one million have reached or exceeded their ISPs limit in the last year alone.

This is particularly important because 56% of major providers are prepared to disconnect those that abuse the service. However it also shows how damaging bad marketing can be, with 6.2m people believing they have an "unlimited" service with no restrictions:

Tim Wolfenden, Head of Communications at uSwitch.com, comments: “The solution is easy, broadband companies should not be allowed to class their packages as unlimited if they are not. Providers are confusing consumers to the extent that broadband users do not even know if they are exceeding a user limit.

Broadband usage levels have gone through the roof as more and more consumers are using things such as on-demand TV services. With so much reliance on broadband, having the service disconnected could feel to someone as serious as having their electricity cut off.

As providers aren’t choosing to be fully transparent about this issue, people need to be savvy when choosing their broadband packages and pay close attention to the small print.
”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is also blamed for making the problem worse by allowing providers to describe their services as "unlimited" even if there is a fair usage cap (FUP), as long as it is detailed in the small print.

However, consumers are none the wiser with over 10 million broadband customers never reading their FUP and a further 1.8m do not know if they have read it or not. Unsurprisingly 7.5m do not even know their download limit, which is understandable when so few providers clarify it:

Tim Wolfenden continues; “The ASA and Ofcom need to take firm action and actually set strict guidelines on the advertising of broadband packages. Broadband policies are confusing enough without customers having to worry if they are going to have their service terminated.

It would be great if all providers could follow Sky’s lead and remove fair usage policies altogether. In the meantime, broadband companies need to make clear and define these limits that they hide in the small print to make sure customers are fully aware of all the details when they sign up.
”

Sadly just 22% of the major broadband providers are transparent and advertise the true limits of their packages. However limits are usually necessary to help maintain a good balance of price and service quality, though some ISPs do indeed need to end the culture of vague FUP's and the “all you can eat” style approach to broadband advertising.
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